Legendary rock bands join forces for a night
By Stacy Peterson
RALEIGH - The two giants of Southern rock came together Friday night for the first stop on the first tour the bands have shared in more than 30 years.
Friday night's sold-out performance at the Alltel Pavilion at Walnut Creek showed exactly why the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd are legends in their field and also just how different the two bands are in style and sound.
The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd have shared the same stages over the years, but this is the first time they have teamed up on the same bill.
Fans of both bands packed the amphitheater to the tune of 20,245, making the concert the ninth sellout of the year at the venue. There were teenagers, grandparents, yuppies, blue collars and more than a few professional audiotapers to document the historic night.
There were also guitar players and fans there to study the licks of five of the best pickers in the business.
But most of all there was a distinct study in how varied the roots of Southern rock are, from the brash volume and swagger of Skynyrd to the studied and heartfelt improvisation of the Allman Brothers Band.
Lynyrd Skynyrd opened the three hours of guitar rock school after a short but emotive set by the amazing Alabama songwriter Ellis Hooks.
After an animated video of the band members and wrestler Dog the Bounty Hunter, Lynyrd Skynyrd took to the stage with a force that nearly dislodged a few front-row fans.
The band opened with "Working for MCA" as vocalist Johnny Van Zant worked the stage next to guitarman Gary Rossington. The band rolled like a well-oiled machine through mostly classic Skynyrd songs such as "I Ain't the One," "What's Your Name?" and a quick medley of "Down South Jukin'," "Gimmie Back My Bullets" and "Swamp Music."
But the best moments came when the band combined music with tons of old footage of the original Lynyrd Skynyrd and even recordings of the late Ronnie Van Zant talking about his music.
The entire crowd sang along to "Simple Man" as a video played scenes with the late Leon Wilkeson. Another highlight was the updated "Tuesday's Gone" and a patriotic take on "Red, White and Blue," which featured the first of many flags covering the entire back of the stage.
With an encore of "Free Bird," Skynyrd keyboardist Billy Powell quietly placed a gold eagle sculpture on top of his white grand piano as a video of Ronnie Van Zant played above. Cigarette lighters covered the lawn like a lake of lightning bugs.
While much of the music from Lynyrd Skynyrd was rehearsed and played in a nearly business-like fashion, the needed emotion was more than provided by the classic footage.
The Allman Brothers Band took to the stage at 9 p.m. with a powerful version of "Statesboro Blues."
While Skynyrd had captured the sheer volume and showmanship of rock music, the Allmans, by contrast, were more in tune with the music, playing several songs from the classic album "Eat A Peach."
The band played on a darker stage, in front of swirling psychedelics and with a crystal- clean sound quality that allowed Gregg Allman's organ to ring out with the duel guitars of Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks.
It was also obvious in a way I'd never thought about just how different the two bands are in sound and influence.
The Allman Brothers are about feeling the moment and mixing elements of jazz, blues and even gospel into a mix of unity of playing off one another.
It was most evident Friday in the cover of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and in an incredible version of the classic "Stormy Monday."
Allman's voice sounded the best I've heard it in years as he laid out the blues.
Lynyrd Skynyrd, on the other hand, sounded like a more punk version of classic blues and Southern rock, with its impressive use of note-for-note timing for three guitars and Van Zant's raspy voice.
The triple guitar threat of Rossington, Rickey Medlocke and Hughie Thomasson was impressive but not as inspired as the Allman Brothers Band's Trucks and Haynes.
The Allman Brothers rolled into a jazzy and improvisational "Les Brers in A Minor" and sounded its best on "Blue Sky."
The band closed the night with "Southbound" and the encore of "Whipping Post."
By the end of the night it was obvious why both bands have stood the test of time even if many of the original members are gone. But it also showed just how varied the genre of Southern rock is in a way the radio and records can never show.
Staff writer Stacy Peterson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 323-4848, ext. 384.
Added: Monday, October 04, 2004